1. Assessment and Recommendations

Ukraine has a large endowment of gas and mid-stream infrastructure that offer investment opportunities in Europe. The country is rich in fossil fuel resources, including coal and natural gas, while developing low-carbon sources, including hydro, biofuels and other renewables. However, structural problems, such as lack of legal certainty and major financial imbalances in the energy sector, and the presence of vested interests undermine the energy potential of Ukraine. Despite the reforms implemented from 2014 to 2021, the sector is still destabilised by two issues that were already identified in the OECD Investment Policy Reviews of Ukraine of 2011 and 2016. Firstly, in some energy sub-sectors, SOEs and privately-owned companies do not operate on an equal footing. Secondly, energy prices are regulated with price levels that are below production costs and subject to cross-subsidisation within various sub-sectors and among different consumers.

The trajectory of energy reforms in Ukraine has been constant since the signing of the Association Agreement with the European Union (EU). As such, the country has deepened its energy inter-connectivity with Europe, increased energy efficiency and set a path towards a low carbon economy. However, the reforms implemented in different energy sub-sectors vary widely and reflect the political dynamics around each subsector. The Energy Strategy of Ukraine until 2035, approved by the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine on August 2017, addresses the most critical issues for achieving a sectoral transformation, and is aimed at improving the country’s energy efficiency, security, competitiveness and integration with the EU energy community.

The reforms implemented in the energy sector by Ukraine have secured the participation of private companies in a wide range of contracts and structures. The government has also increased the in-flow of capital into the energy sector by privatising state assets, both large and small, and by reforming public procurement. These changes have led to growing interest from national and international corporations in the Ukrainian hydrocarbon and renewable energy sectors.

The outbreak of COVID-19 has affected investments in energy sectors both worldwide and in Ukraine. Long-awaited reforms, such as the cancellation of cross-subsidisation, have been postponed. Furthermore, restrictive measures on persons and goods put in place during the first wave of the pandemic have affected the electricity, hydrocarbon and renewables markets in Ukraine. However, by adequately implementing Ukraine’s Energy Strategy until 2035 and the Energy Security Strategy, the latest approved in August 2021, the Government of Ukraine could be able to secure sustainable investments in the energy sector, going beyond corporate profitability and generating economic, social and environmental development.

Since Euromaidan in 2013-2014, attracting investment in Ukraine’s energy sector has been a top priority of the government, as is evidenced by the Energy Strategy of Ukraine (ESU 2035). To improve the attractiveness of its energy sector, Ukraine has made continuous efforts to reform the regulatory framework in line with European legislation and other international standards.

As was already identified in the OECD 2016 Investment Policy Review of Ukraine, there are no generalised screening or approval mechanisms for new investments or established companies in Ukraine. Ukraine does not impose limits on access to local finance and incentives or government purchasing markets for foreign-controlled enterprises incorporated in the country. National treatment of foreign investors in the post-establishment phase is guaranteed, which means that foreign investors, when incorporated and headquartered in Ukraine, are considered to be domestic legal entities, with all the rights and obligations that apply to domestic investors. Exceptions to national treatment relevant to Ukraine's energy sector include the acquisition of farm land and some aspects of access to privatisation. In addition, only natural monopolies, which are regulated by the Law on Natural Monopolies, can carry out certain types of business activities such as transport of oil and oil products by oil pipelines, transport of natural and oil gas by pipelines, distribution of natural gas by pipelines, and electricity transmission.

Ukraine has established a legal framework containing domestic provisions aimed at promoting and protecting investments. Creating a level playing field for energy sector investors has been seen by Ukraine as important for fostering investments. The country has implemented several legislative reforms to ensure the supremacy of law and combat corruption. That being said, there is room for further improvement. To achieve a more holistic reform, Ukraine should further strengthen institutional co-operation between existing anti-corruption bodies, ensure equal access to justice, firmly uphold the rule of law and provide efficient protection of ownership rights through the use of alternative dispute resolution mechanisms.

Ukraine’s governance challenges are among the most important impediments to improving growth prospects and unlocking the private sector’s contribution to the development of the energy sector. While addressing these challenges requires fundamental institutional change that will take time and yield broad-based improvements only in the long term, progress in specific areas can have important impacts on strengthening transparency and accountability in the short and medium term. Therefore, it is important to sustain ongoing actions in key areas such as effective implementation of anti-corruption laws, implementation of reforms in the judiciary system, and strengthening of regulation enforcement.

Investor protection granted under Ukraine’s investment treaties is another important part of the legal framework that is relevant for investment in the energy sector. Ukraine has over 60 investment treaties in force today. These treaties grant protections to certain investors in addition to and independently from protections available under domestic law to all investors. Most of these treaties apply to investments across the entire economy, including the energy sector, while some apply specifically to the energy sector. Like treaties that are signed by many other countries, Ukraine’s investment treaties typically protect investments made by treaty-covered investors against expropriation, discrimination and unfair or unequitable treatment. They also give covered investors access to investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) procedures, including international arbitration, in cases where they claim that the government has infringed these protections.

A significant number of Ukraine’s investment treaties have rather vague investment protections and ISDS provisions that may create unintended consequences in ISDS cases and ultimately undermine the goals of such treaties – a situation that Ukraine shares with many other countries. Many governments now recognise that it would be desirable to reform some older investment treaties so that they include specific design approaches commonly used in newer investment treaties. Updating existing treaties remains a separate challenge to negotiating new treaties, with time, cost and resource allocation constraints. Reform options for older treaties may also need to take account of new needs and priorities for such treaties today, including the growing urgency of tackling the climate crisis and creating the necessary incentives for the transition to low-carbon, renewable energy sources. Recommendations to reconsider several aspects of the government’s approach to investment treaties in this context are set out in chapter 4 of this Review.

Whatever approach the government takes towards investment treaty-making, these treaties should not be seen as a substitute for long-term improvements in the domestic business environment, including through measures to improve the capacity, efficiency and independence of the domestic court system, the quality of the legal framework, and the strength of national institutions responsible for enforcing such legislation.

Ukraine remains far behind developed countries in terms of building efficient and innovative energy infrastructure. Chronic underfunding from the state budget and inefficient state property management are two important factors for explaining the current condition of infrastructure. The government is aware that one way to enhance infrastructure is by attracting private investors to the country. Besides, the Ministry of Infrastructure has recognised seven necessary conditions that would aid in successfully implementing energy infrastructure in the country: i) political will and support by the state and society; ii) reliable legal framework and strong institutions; iii) flexible financing through equity and debt; iv) transparent and impartial tenders; v) reliable feasibility studies; vi) fair risk allocation between partners; and vii) rate of return expected by private partners remunerating adequately the level of risk.

Ukraine has the opportunity of generating policies that will enable energy infrastructure projects to advance the country’s commitments to achieve a carbon-neutral economy and integrate with the EU market. For instance, strengthening policies that regulate electricity ancillary services will enable investments to upgrade transmission and distribution infrastructure by private sector participants. For Ukraine to comply with its National Determined Contributions under the Paris Agreement, it is essential that the government provides legal certainty to investors developing renewable energy generation projects. Ukraine should consider the importance of resolving the issue of fiscal arrears due to renewable energy companies.  This could help improve the investment climate in the renewable energy sector and attract additional foreign capital.

1. Ukraine should establish principles to improve regulatory and administrative predictability not only during the preparation and construction of energy infrastructure projects but also during the operation, as less risk and uncertainty over infrastructure projects can increase the flows of investments in the country. Additionally, to decrease the high per capita consumption of electricity and heating, it is necessary to advance infrastructure projects that foster energy efficiency.

In the context of reforming the energy sector and transforming it into a clean, green, decarbonised sector of the economy, one of the main challenges for Ukraine is the need to leverage significant investment flows. Targeted investment promotion and facilitation efforts, along with effective and quality policy-making relative to the overall investment climate are crucial for modernising Ukraine’s energy industry.

Recent initiatives have aimed to promote Ukraine as an attractive destination for foreign investments in all sectors of the economy, including in the energy sector in line with the Energy Strategy of Ukraine until 2035. These initiatives are part of the liberalisation efforts in the electricity, oil and gas markets, and due to the potential of renewable energy generation in Ukraine. As a result, Ukraine, supported by international partners such as the OECD, the EU, EBRD and the IMF, has been exploring ways to develop a greener energy sector, notably through solar and wind power, and ultimately through a green hydrogen industry in the country.

Ukraine’s investment promotion agency (IPA), UkraineInvest, has played a central role in investment promotion and facilitation activities since its creation in 2016, while government actions aim to enhance the regulatory and institutional framework surrounding foreign investment. Investment facilitation also stems from administrative simplification efforts that have been implemented over recent years. Despite Ukraine’s improvement with respect to international rankings assessing its business climate (OECD FDI Regulatory Restrictiveness Index, World Bank Doing Business), the institutional environment remains challenging for investors and harmful for Ukraine’s competitiveness. Further efforts are needed to improve investors’ perception of Ukraine’s business climate as this Review highlights, particularly in the energy sector, where the historical prevalence of monopolistic and state-owned enterprises has been viewed by business and international organisations as a feature that hinders investments.

Since the Revolution of Dignity in February 2014, Ukraine has strengthened its anti-corruption policies by adopting reforms such as the 2014 Law on prevention of corruption (in force since April 2015) and reforms of the judicial system. A weak judiciary and corruption nevertheless remain outstanding issues despite important reforms. According to a survey on Ukraine’s investment climate released in September 2021 by the American Chamber of Ukraine, 93% of surveyed businesses stated that implementation of real and effective judicial reform, the rule of law, fair justice, and the eradication of corruption should be the government’s primary objectives in order to deliver economic growth, improve the business climate, and attract FDI

Public procurement has substantially improved, although numerous amendments to the law on public procurement have provided a challenge for businesses, as they have affected legal certainty. The enforcement of the Law on prevention of corruption and the work of Ukraine’s anti-corruption agencies have also faced challenges, as evidenced by the 2020 Constitutional Court's controversial rulings. Strengthening judicial capacity is also crucial not only for the success of Ukraine’s energy transformation but also for the country's development overall. There are also long-standing risks related to political interference in Ukraine’s energy sector, which corruption continues to plague.

Promoting and enabling responsible business conduct (RBC) is of central interest to policymakers to attract quality investment and to ensure that business activity in their country contributes to broader value creation and sustainable development. RBC principles and standards set out an expectation that all businesses should avoid and address negative impacts stemming from their operations, while contributing to sustainable development where they operate.

Although Ukraine has been an Adherent to the OECD Declaration on International Investment and Multinational Enterprises since 2017, more work needs to be done to ensure that a comprehensive regulatory framework creates an enabling environment for the promotion and implementation of RBC principles in the upstream, midstream and downstream activities in the energy sector. Further to streamlining the existing RBC-related policies and legal and regulatory frameworks, further efforts are needed to strengthen environmental, human and labour rights protections, anti-corruption efforts, and transparency and disclosure practices.

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